Sometimes when I am speaking I am very aware of the words I am saying and where those words came from. Sometimes a word is just a word that stands alone with one meaning. But once in awhile, we use words with alternate meanings, or strange combinations of words into funny expressions, and go day by day using these words with little idea of where they might have come from.
Recently I read a book which highlighted a few of these words or expressions that we use often, and gave a little history of why we say these things. To honor this book (London is the best city in America), and nerd out about words, here you go:
1)Word/ Expression: Toast: I’m not talking about what we eat for breakfast with peanut butter, I’m talking about when we raise a glass to honor a special occasion, such as a wedding.
History/ Meaning: Ancient Romans used to put a piece of toast at the bottom of the wine glass to reduce sediment and/or acidity, thus it became a “toast.”
2) Word/ Expression: Honeymoon: I think we know that this is a trip (be it an overnight somewhere or two weeks in the Caribbean) that a couple takes after getting married. But it is a little confusing since usually no one goes for a month (moon) unless they are super wealthy. I always assumed the “honey” part was a term of endearment, but…
History/ Meaning: Goes back to a northern European/ Scandinavian tradition where the bride and groom would drink honeyed wine/ mead each day for a month (moon) after their wedding. Salud!
3) Word/ Expression: The apple of my eye: This one we say when we are talking about someone who we love dearly. I don’t really use this one as I’m not sure I ever understood what it meant.
History/ Meaning: Going back to an ancient Hebrew translation, this can be understood as “the little man/puppet” in my eye, referring to the reflection you see of yourself in another’s eyes when you look at them. Weird…
4) Word/ Expression: Charlie horse: If you don’t know what this is, you’re lucky- its a type of hideous leg cramp (usually in the upper leg/ thigh). But who is this Charlie, and is he really to blame?
History/ Meaning: Not entirely clear, but most trace it back to U.S. in the 1880s, when baseball pitcher Charlie “Old Hoss”Radbourn was famous and suffered from leg cramps. Interestingly, other names for these types of leg cramps in other countries include (translated), “rat”, “water buffalo,” “wooden leg,” “donkey’s bite,” “thigh hen,” and my very favorite, “thigh cookie.” Many names for a beast of a symptom!
5) Word/ Expression: Eighty-six: I have heard this to mean a person is kicked out of an (ahem) establishment, and also that something has run out.
History/ Meaning: This one is the least clear of all. Some say it has to do with codes that soda jerks or restaurateurs had for items as they would run out (steak, for example), and that it became slang for something running out. Another refers to soup kitchens having cauldrons holding 85 cups of soup, so the 86th person was out of luck. Finally, there is a story about a bar in NYC that would, during prohibition, call ahead to warn patrons of the speakeasy to head out before authorities arrived. The speakeasy (now legit), Chumleys, was at 86 Bedford Street, which would have been code.
Did you know the meanings behind these expressions? Have you heard any other possible meanings? Are there any expressions or idioms that you have always wondered about?